Qualities We Must Pursue
“Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, [and] mildness of temper.”—1 TIM. 6:11.
1. Illustrate what the word “pursue” means.
WHAT comes to mind when you hear the word “pursue”? Perhaps you think of Moses’ day when the Egyptian army “took up the pursuit” of Israel, only to suffer disaster in the Red Sea. (Ex. 14:23) Or you may recall the danger faced by an accidental manslayer in ancient Israel. He quickly had to get to one of six designated cities of refuge. Otherwise “the blood-avenger, pursuing the manslayer in hot anger, [might] overtake him and kill him.”—Deut. 19:6, Tanakh.
2. (a) What prize has God invited some Christians to pursue? (b) What prospect does Jehovah hold out to most Christians today?
2 In contrast to the above Biblical examples, consider the positive attitude that the apostle Paul had: “I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) The Bible shows that a total of 144,000 anointed Christians, Paul included, receive that prize of heavenly life. They will share with Jesus Christ in his Millennial Reign over the earth. What a wonderful goal such ones have been invited by God to pursue! The vast majority of true Christians today, however, have a different prospect, or goal. Jehovah lovingly holds out to them what Adam and Eve lost, namely, the prospect of everlasting life in perfect health on a paradise earth.—Rev. 7:4, 9; 21:1-4.
3. How can we show appreciation for God’s undeserved kindness?
3 Sinful humans cannot earn everlasting life by their imperfect efforts to do what is right. (Isa. 64:6) Gaining everlasting life is possible only by putting faith in God’s loving provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. What can we do to show our appreciation for that undeserved kindness of God? For one thing, we can obey this command: “Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, [and] mildness of temper.” (1 Tim. 6:11) Considering these qualities may help each of us to be more determined to go on pursuing them “more fully.”—1 Thess. 4:1.
4. Why can we be sure that the pursuit of “righteousness” is important, and what initial steps must a person take?
4 In both of his letters to Timothy, the apostle Paul listed qualities to be pursued, and each time, he mentioned “righteousness” first. (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22) Moreover, in other passages the Bible repeatedly encourages us to pursue righteousness. (Prov. 15:9; 21:21; Isa. 51:1) A way to start to do so is by “taking in knowledge of . . . the only true God, and of the one whom [he] sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Pursuing righteousness will move a person to action—to repent of past sins and “turn around” so as to do God’s will.—Acts 3:19.
5. What must we do to gain and maintain a righteous standing with God?
5 Millions who are genuinely pursuing righteousness have dedicated their life to Jehovah and symbolized such dedication by water baptism. If you are now a baptized Christian, have you thought about the fact that your life course should, and likely does, reveal your ongoing pursuit of righteousness? One aspect of that is your discerning from the Bible what is “right and wrong” when faced with life’s decisions. (Read Hebrews 5:14.) For example, if you are a single Christian of marriageable age, are you completely resolved to avoid forming any romantic attachment to someone who is not a baptized Christian? You are if you are pursuing righteousness.—1 Cor. 7:39.
6. Truly pursuing righteousness involves what?
6 Being righteous is different from being self-righteous or “righteous overmuch.” (Eccl. 7:16) Jesus warned against making a show of that sort of righteousness so as to appear better than others. (Matt. 6:1) Truly pursuing righteousness involves the heart—the correcting of wrong thoughts, attitudes, motives, and desires. If we keep working at doing this, we are unlikely to commit serious sins. (Read Proverbs 4:23; compare James 1:14, 15.) Furthermore, Jehovah will bless us and help us in our pursuit of other important Christian qualities.
“Pursue . . . Godly Devotion”
7. What is “godly devotion”?
7 Devotion involves being ardently dedicated and loyal. One Bible dictionary notes that the Greek word translated “godly devotion” describes “the good and careful cherishing of the fear of God.” The Israelites often failed to manifest such devotion, as seen by their disobedient acts even after God freed them from Egypt.
8. (a) Adam’s sin raised what question? (b) How was the answer to this “sacred secret” revealed?
8 For thousands of years after the perfect man Adam sinned, the question could be raised, “Can any human display perfect godly devotion?” Over the centuries, no sinful human was able to live a life of perfect godly devotion. But in his own due time, Jehovah revealed the answer to this “sacred secret.” He transferred the life of his only-begotten heavenly Son to Mary’s womb to be born as a perfect human. Throughout his earthly life and including his humiliating death, Jesus showed what it means to be ardently dedicated and fully loyal to the true God. His prayers revealed his reverence for his loving heavenly Father. (Matt. 11:25; John 12:27, 28) Thus, Jehovah inspired Paul to speak of “godly devotion” in describing Jesus’ exemplary life course.—Read 1 Timothy 3:16.
9. How can we pursue godly devotion?
9 In our sinful state, we cannot manifest perfect godly devotion. But we can pursue it. This calls on us to follow Christ’s model as closely as possible. (1 Pet. 2:21) Thus, we will not be like the hypocrites who ‘have a form of godly devotion but prove false to its power.’ (2 Tim. 3:5) This does not mean that true godly devotion has nothing to do with outward appearances. It certainly does. For instance, whether we are choosing a wedding dress or deciding what to wear while shopping, our appearance should always harmonize with our claim “to reverence God.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) Yes, the pursuit of godly devotion requires that we take God’s righteous standards into consideration in our daily lives.
“Pursue . . . Faith”
10. What must we do to keep our faith strong?
10 Read Romans 10:17. To attain and maintain strong faith, a Christian must keep meditating on the precious truths found in God’s Word. “The faithful and discreet slave” has provided many fine publications. Three exceptional books are The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, Learn From the Great Teacher, and “Come Be My Follower,” volumes that are designed to help us get to know Christ better and thus be in a position to imitate him. (Matt. 24:45-47) The slave class also arranges for meetings, assemblies, and conventions, many of which highlight “the word about Christ.” Do you see any ways in which you could take greater advantage of these as you pay “more than the usual attention” to what God provides?—Heb. 2:1.
11. Prayer and obedience play what roles in our pursuing faith?
11 Prayer is another aid in building strong faith. Jesus’ followers once pleaded with him: “Give us more faith.” We can humbly beg God to do the same. (Luke 17:5) To that end, we should pray for the help of God’s holy spirit; faith is one aspect of “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Gal. 5:22) Further, obeying God’s commands strengthens our faith. For instance, we might apply ourselves to having an increased share in the preaching work. That will likely produce in us a deep happiness. And as we reflect on the blessings that come from “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness,” our faith will grow.—Matt. 6:33.
“Pursue . . . Love”
12, 13. (a) What is Jesus’ new commandment? (b) In what important ways must we pursue Christlike love?
12 Read 1 Timothy 5:1, 2. Paul gave practical counsel on how Christians can show love for one another. Our godly devotion must include obedience to Jesus’ new commandment to “love one another” as he loved us. (John 13:34) The apostle John pointed out: “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him?” (1 John 3:17) Can you think of occasions when you have displayed love in a practical way?
13 Another way in which we pursue love is by being forgiving, not nursing grudges against our brothers. (Read 1 John 4:20.) Rather, we want to follow this inspired counsel: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Col. 3:13) Is there someone in the congregation toward whom you could apply this counsel? Will you forgive him or her?
“Pursue . . . Endurance”
14. What can we learn from the congregation in Philadelphia?
14 It is one thing to exert ourselves toward a short-term goal but quite another matter when the goal is difficult to reach or further away than we expected. Clearly, pursuing the goal of everlasting life requires endurance. “Because you kept what I said about endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test,” the Lord Jesus told the congregation in Philadelphia. (Rev. 3:10; ftn.) Indeed, Jesus taught about the need for endurance—a quality that helps us not to give up when facing trials and temptations. The brothers in the first-century congregation in Philadelphia must have shown exemplary endurance through many tests of faith. Thus, Jesus assured them of further help during a greater test to come.—Luke 16:10.
15. What did Jesus teach about endurance?
15 Jesus knew that his followers would face hatred from unbelieving relatives and the world in general, so on at least two occasions, he encouraged them in this way: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22; 24:13) Jesus also showed how at that time his disciples could get the needed strength to endure. In one illustration, he likened rocky soil to individuals who “receive [God’s] word with joy” but fall away when faced with tests of faith. However, he likened his faithful followers to fine soil in that they “retain” the word of God and “bear fruit with endurance.”—Luke 8:13, 15.
16. What loving provision has helped millions to endure?
16 Did you notice the secret to endurance? We must “retain” God’s word, keeping it alive in our hearts and minds. Having the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—an accurate, easy-to-read translation of the Bible—available in more and more languages has made it convenient and possible to do so. Our meditating on a portion of God’s Word every day will help us to find the needed strength to keep on bearing fruit “with endurance.”—Ps. 1:1, 2.
“Pursue . . . Mildness of Temper” and Peace
17. (a) Why is “mildness of temper” so important? (b) How did Jesus show that he was mild-tempered?
17 No one enjoys being accused of something he has not said or done. Angry denial is a common way for humans to react to unjust criticism. How much better it is to show “mildness of temper”! (Read Proverbs 15:1.) It takes great strength to be mild when dealing with unjust criticism. Jesus Christ set a perfect example in this. “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:23) We cannot expect to do as well as Jesus did in this regard, but can we work at improving the extent to which we show mildness of temper?
18. (a) What good does mildness of temper accomplish? (b) What other quality are we urged to pursue?
18 In imitation of Jesus, may we be “always ready to make a defense” of our beliefs, “doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Pet. 3:15) Yes, our having mildness of temper can prevent differences of opinion from escalating into heated arguments, both with people we meet in our ministry and with fellow believers. (2 Tim. 2:24, 25) Mildness is conducive to our enjoyment of peace. Perhaps that is why Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, listed “peace” among qualities to pursue. (2 Tim. 2:22; compare 1 Timothy 6:11.) Yes, “peace” is another quality that the Scriptures encourage us to pursue.—Ps. 34:14; Heb. 12:14.
19. After considering seven Christian qualities, what are you determined to pursue, and why?
19 We have touched on seven Christian qualities that we are encouraged to pursue—righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper, and peace. What a blessing it is in every congregation when brothers and sisters exert themselves to display even more fully these precious qualities! This will honor Jehovah and allow him to mold each of us to his praise.
Thoughts for Meditation
• What is involved in pursuing righteousness and godly devotion?
• What will help us to pursue faith and endurance?
• How should love affect our dealings with one another?
• Why do we need to pursue mildness and peace?
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Jesus warned against making a show of righteousness to impress men
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We can pursue faith by meditating on the truths of God’s Word
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We can pursue love and mildness of temper